SUBMISSION KNOWHOW Selecting an agent

In the first of our new strand about submitting your work, Bryony Pearce helps you select an agent.

So you believe that your manuscript is at submission standard. You’ve edited it until you’re half-blind and you’ve decided you’d like to be traditionally published. Our submissions strand is for you.

You're going to need some help getting through these gates.
Photo credit: Wikicommons

Wait, do I need an agent, can’t I just go it alone? Sure, you can go it alone. You can approach publishers with your work directly. However, most publishers (like Penguin Random House) don’t accept unsolicited submissions. This means that they only take manuscripts from agents. So, if you decide to try and get published without an agent, the first thing you’re doing is restricting the number of publishers who will be looking at your work. An agent will not only get your work in front of the right publisher, but also help you with edits, listen to ideas, keep you on track and make sure you get a good deal and that your contract is fair and right for you. I have ‘gone it alone’ and sold a couple of books, but when I signed with my current agent, she immediately negotiated me a better deal for me. Agents take 15% of earnings, but if they get more money for you, they pay for themselves.

Okay, I want an agent, but there are so many, which do I choose? There are a lot of agents, but they don’t all represent the same kind of writer. I’d recommend getting the Writer’s and Artist’s Yearbook (for this year). Go through and narrow down the agents that are looking for what you are writing (there’s no point submitting to an agent who only represents Adult Crime novels if you’re writing Middle-Grade). Another way you could find the right agent is to look at writers who have published similar things – who represents them? Once you’ve got yourself a list, then you can start stalking! Look at the agency website, look for blogs or articles by the agents you like, follow them on Twitter and Instagram – see what they love, what they loathe, if you click with their voice and style. Perhaps even tweet them a relevant question, or lightly and politely engage, so that when your manuscript lands on their desk they may remember your name. I’ve narrowed it down to twenty I like.

Do I submit to all of them? No. What you should do is break them up into groups of five. Submit to your first five. Hopefully you’ll get one asking for your full manuscript, but if not, you might still be lucky and get some feedback. If you do, you can act on it before sending to your next five and then your next five and so on.

So how do I approach them, what do I send? Always look at the agency website. Most agents like a covering letter, synopsis and the first three chapters, and you can usually email them in, but not all. Some like a different package, or only take snail-mail, so check it first. And make sure you send to your carefully selected, named agent!  You can find out how to write covering letters in my next post in July.


Bryony Pearce Critique

Cambridge graduate, Bryony Pearce, fled her ‘real London job’ in 2004 and now lives in the Forest of Dean. She is a reader for Cornerstones Literary Consultancy and has her own consulting business called Unique Critique. When the children let her off taxi duty and out of the house, she enjoys doing school visits, festivals and events.

Her novels for young adults include the multi-award winning Angel’s Fury, The Weight of Souls, Phoenix Rising and Phoenix Burning, Windrunner’s Daughter, Wavefunction and Savage Island. She also has short stories appearing in the anthologies Now We Are Ten by Newcon Press and Stories from the Edge.

Twitter: @BryonyPearce

No comments:

We love comments and really appreciate the time it takes to leave one.
Interesting and pithy reactions to a post are brilliant but we also LOVE it when people just say they've read and enjoyed.
We've made it easy to comment by losing the 'are you human?' test, which means we get a lot of spam. Fortunately, Blogger recognises these, so most, if not all, anonymous comments are deleted without reading.

Words & Pictures is the Online Magazine of SCBWI British Isles. Powered by Blogger.